Mili Clark died April 29, 2020 of heart failure. Mili joined UB English in 1972 and retired 40 years later in 2012. In that time she taught classes on Milton and Chaucer, won the Student Association Award for Excellence in Teaching, directed the Composition Program (from 1993-2008), and supervised a number of Ph.D. theses.
Mili Clark was a quick-witted and sharp-tongued “lady” by the time I joined the Department in 1984, but rumor has it that in 1972 she rode into town in leather and on a “hog”!
Mili adored teaching Chaucer and Milton at UB and cared passionately about her prison teaching, which she conducted largely with her friends in American Studies. That crew—including June Licence, Jean Dickson, and Mike Frisch—often held long late summer parties on Grand Island, full of folk music.
For the last ten years or so of her career Mili almost single-handedly held together our composition program, taking over computer scheduling after we went from hand-writing such things on a whiteboard and Administrative Assistant Rita Lipsitz’s eyes just couldn’t take it anymore. Like many medievalists, who understood that the printed book is a modern phenomenon and that oceans of textuality and rhetoric surround it, Mili was quick on a computer and both meticulous and wide-ranging. She sat at her station on the third floor, endlessly entering data and attending to the woes of both students and TAs, but she also tolerated—indeed encouraged—TA-initiated efforts toward more participatory teaching models. I always think of Mili when we discuss the rhetoric and writing programs in our Department, and like to think she would approve of our current efforts to create well-mentored and supported post-docs in that area.
Mili was an unregenerate cigarette smoker, and her heart was already weak when she retired. You weren’t supposed to light up in the building anymore, but there was occasionally a distinct whiff from her office, which faced onto the wind tunnel on the north side of the building. One winter break a gust got into the partially-cracked window and blew the whole thing wide open, scattering her papers all over and leaving a large snowdrift over desk, computer, books, and all. She cleaned it up, and started again.
Robert Newman. Bob taught in our department for nearly 40 years, from 1967 to 2005, and was by all accounts a beloved colleague and teacher. https://buffalonews.com/2020/03/29/newman-robert-s-phd/
As We Remember Robert Newman
Head of Tolstoy College, Director of Undergraduate Studies, author of Language for Writing (1967) and American Lives, American Issues (2002), versatile teacher, and good colleague, Bob Newman came to UB from UCLA in 1967 and taught here till his retirement in 2005.
Just after a visiting speaker had dazzled us, Bob phoned me to say that he had seen me taking notes and was wondering what I made of the talk. Working together, we came up with an interpretation we could use. We allowed that our view might not have been what the speaker intended to mean, but we concluded that it was clearly what he did mean, what he should have meant, and what he would have wanted to mean if only he had known.
Finding ourselves side by side at a traffic light on Niagara Falls Boulevard, we improvised a slow-motion drag race. Our elderly autos roared and shuddered mightily as we crept forward with a certain glacial majesty. There was no traffic for us to impede or amuse, and any child on a bicycle could easily have outdistanced us, but we had a grand time.
While he was directing undergraduate studies, there were sudden protests that he had failed to schedule courses needed to meet the requirements for the major. Bob responded with characteristic generosity. The protests were in fact mistaken, but the distress was genuine, so Bob answered as a true diplomat does when entirely in the right. As Talleyrand did with Brionne, he apologized. Only then did he mention the courses on offer that would meet the requirements. He was like that.
In our profession, one-upping spreads like crabgrass, but he was immune. His self-deprecation was part of his grace. Students we shared still mention his ingenuity and kindness. For reasons both light and serious, I miss him.